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Wednesday, Dec 07, 2022

Behind SP, RLD skipping INLD rally, ‘wait and watch’, uncertain Opposition shape

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, who has been trying to forge a united Oppn front to take on BJP in 2024 general elections, met SP chief Akhilesh Yadav just days before Haryana rally.

The rally in Haryana was attended by Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, INLD supremo Om Prakash Chautala, NCP leader Sharad Pawar, the Akali Dal's Sukhbir Singh Badal, RJD leader and Bihar Deputy CM Tejaswi Yadav, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant. (Express Photo by Jasbir Malhi)

At the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) rally in Hayana’s Fatehabad on September 25, held to mark the birth anniversary of former deputy prime minister Devi Lal, senior leaders from different regional parties sought to form a united front against the ruling BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has been trying to rally the Opposition together, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury were among the leaders in attendance at the INLD’s rally. However, the absence of Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Jayant Chaudhary from the rally did not go unnoticed in political circles.

As per sources in both the parties, which are key players in Uttar Pradesh politics, their chiefs gave the event a miss because they were in “wait and watch mode as they were uncertain about the shape that the Opposition’s coalition was taking”.

SP spokesperson Udaiveer Singh said Akhilesh could not attend the INLD rally “because he was busy in the preparations of the party’s national convention” that is scheduled for later this month.

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The SP’s Haryana unit president Surendra Singh Bhati said the INLD had invited “both Neta ji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) and party national president Akhilesh Yadav ji, but Neta ji could not attend because of health reasons”. “Representatives of the party were not invited to the rally. So, local unit leaders did not participate in it,” he added.

At the rally organised by INLD chief and ex-Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala, Kumar was the central figure who urged Opposition parties “to come together and defeat the BJP,” in line with his continuing bid to forge a common Opposition front.

In this background, what makes the SP’s absence more conspicuous is the point that Akhilesh had met Kumar in Gurugram just days prior to the rally. Sources said the key issue of their discussion was over the possibility of Kumar contesting the Lok Sabha election from Uttar Pradesh by forming an alliance with the SP.

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Meanwhile, the RLD expressed concern over the lack of details of the proposed Opposition front. The RLD and the SP had contested the UP Assembly elections in March 2022 together.

RLD president and Rajya Sabha MP, Jayant Chaudhary, said, “We have utmost respect for Chaudhary Devi Lal ji. He was a true leader of farmers. Unfortunately, we could not attend this rally.”

Another RLD functionary, on condition of anonymity, said, “There is a lack of enthusiasm in the Opposition parties after Nitish Kumar started holding meetings to unite them. More joint meetings and programmes were supposed to be held but that is not happening.”

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The RLD leader said the “shape of the Opposition unity was not clear yet,” with the question hanging in the air whether “there will be a tie-up between the Congress and regional parties,” adding “That is why many parties are maintaining some sort of distance.”

A senior SP leader said, “This is a situation of wait and watch. We do not know what will happen in the 2024 polls. People do not want to commit so early because such exercises by other Opposition leaders have failed in the past,” adding that Akhilesh was “focusing on Uttar Pradesh primarily to challenge the BJP”.

The rally was also attended by the Akali Dal’s Sukhbir Singh Badal, RJD leader and Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, and Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant. The Trinamool Congress claimed that it had sent a representative to the rally too.

SP convention begins today

The SP will hold its state and national convention in Lucknow from Wednesday where the party’s state and national presidents will be elected. Akhilesh Yadav is all set to be re-elected as its national president for the third time in a row on Thursday. The two-day event is going to be the first big meet of SP after its loss in the 2022 UP polls. In July, after the party’s defeat in the Lok Sabha bypolls in Azamgarh and Rampur, Akhilesh dissolved all the party wings. Only Naresh Uttam Patel had retained his post as UP SP chief.

First published on: 27-09-2022 at 03:37:00 pm
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